Margaret "Meg" Miller, a 40-year faculty member and a fellow in the University of Arizona Arthritis Center, died April 26 at the age of 71.
Originally from Ohio, Miller moved to Tucson in 1977 for an internal medicine residency at the University of Arizona with her husband, Thomas "Tom" Miller, who later became chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology. The couple fell in love with the Southwest, and Meg Miller remained in Arizona for a rheumatology fellowship prior to beginning her tenure as an assistant professor in rheumatology in 1980.
"It's rare for a physician, particularly one in academia, to stay in one place for such a long time," said Daniel Persky, associate director of clinical investigations at the University of Arizona Cancer Center. "But Meg enjoyed living in the Southwest. She enjoyed the people in the Southwest. And she dedicated her life to serving them in various capacities – as a clinician, as a teacher and as a mentor."
Colleagues say Miller's endless compassion for her patients, coupled with her persistent desire to help them achieve a life free of pain and suffering was her driving force. In 2006, Miller became medical director of infusion services at the Cancer Center, a position she held until 2015. Being a cancer survivor herself gave her the ability to relate to her patients, many of whom she shared with Persky.
"She was always very patient-oriented, very compassionate," Persky said. "She had this can-do attitude and just a tremendous willingness to help. If she, for some reason, couldn't help a patient herself, she would find them someone who could."
Miller's willingness to help extended to her students. A rheumatologist by training, she continued to teach in the University's Rheumatology Fellowship Training Program – Arizona's only rheumatology training program – up until the year before her death.
"I talked her out of retiring a few years back," says C. Kent Kwoh, chief of rheumatology and director of the Arthritis Center. "I said, 'Meg, you can't do that. We need you.' The students and the fellows and the residents just loved her too much. She was a natural teacher and was so welcoming and was able to connect with each student. I would describe her as a treasure."
Through three battles with cancer, Miller trusted the Cancer Center with her care. But even as a patient in the very unit she had previously been director of, she continued to pass along her knowledge and wisdom to everyone she encountered.
"I learned something during every interaction I ever had with Meg," Persky said. "Even when she was sick and I visited her upstairs in the infusion suites, she taught me a couple of pearls about, say, potassium replacement, or things like that. She never missed an opportunity to teach."
Miller even shared her gift for instruction with the larger Tucson community, educating seniors on arthritis and how to find relief from joint pain.
Those who wish to do so can make a donation to the Arthritis Center in Miller's memory.